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High School Stadium May Not Be Built in Time for Football Season

If the school district doesn't settle a lawsuit with a nearby landowner and developer in the next month, football fans will have to wait until the 2012-13 season to enjoy games at home.

Completion of the stadium bleachers may be delayed until next school year’s mid-football season–at best–because the Capistrano Unified School District with a nearby landowner and developer.

The board of trustees emerged from closed-session talks about the litigation Tuesday night with no news to report. Although the board later voted to put out to bid the stadium project, which includes construction of a synthetic track, the district will not advertise for those bids until the litigation is settled.

Trustee John Alpay emphasized that the district cannot put the project out to bid until the litigation is resolved. He asked how soon could the San Juan Hill High community use the stadium and might it be ready for the school’s first home game next season.

The answer is definitely no, said Ron Lebs, deputy superintendent for business and support services. If the school board approves a settlement at the March 8 meeting, the soonest the stadium could open is Oct. 7. If the matter is delayed until the board’s April meeting, the stadium would not come online until Nov. 12.

“It would be difficult to get the stadium built [in time for the next football season] if we don’t get a settlement in the next 30 days,” Lebs said.

The developer of a project known as , a 155-home project planned next to the high school campus, sued the district in 2009 for failing to make the final, $6-million payment on the $51 million the district agreed to pay the developer for the land.

In addition, a property-line dispute with the developer stopped the district from finishing the stadium’s home-side bleachers. The district had bought the bleachers, which have since been in storage.

, which opened in 2007 and graduates its first senior class this year, plays its home games at Tesoro High School eight miles away in Las Flores.

Tom Pistone, an Irvine-based lawyer for Whispering Hills, has said he expects a settlement with the district as early as March. An April 4 trial date has been set for the case.

Several parents spoke to the school board Tuesday, thanking it for finally putting out to bid the stadium completion project.

“What I want to say is thank you,” said Margie Tinsley, mom of the school’s student body president, Parker Tinsley. “It won’t be here for our senior class, but it will be here for the future.”

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